Thursday, December 04, 2008

Letter from Mumbai

My old buddy Capt. Jimmy Shroff in Mumbai writes tongue-in-cheek to the Times of India in response to the anger now being felt in India over the recent terrorist attacks.

His simple suggestion: Have a cup of chai (tea).

Or as they say in Cantonese: Yum cha (飲茶)

To: The Editor, Times of India

Subject: We do care… A cup of tea as follow-up to anger

Dear Sir,

What follows is a suggestion for the formation of an inclusive organization called "CHildren and Adults' Initiative International" or CHAI (International) as a long-term channel not so much in response to the 26-11 terror strike but certainly initiated by the apparently horrible event.

There is no comment on the immediate response being contemplated, whether resulting in armed conflict or not. We may justifiably shatter more human bodies but we must simultaneously strive to build up our more subtle bodies, namely the networked bodies comprising of our emotions and thoughts. We need to improve ourselves. If we expect to have high-caliber persons to represent us in government we need to be high-caliber citizens first.

The immediate action of caring for the injured and the orphaned also does not need any comment.

The main aim of the organization is based on what M.K. Gandhi says so beautifully: We must become the change we want to see in others….. and in the world. But the above is not so much an aim as a technique towards inching for the ultimate indisputable goal: To help us live at a higher level of joy, fortified with knowledge of our self. For the most beautiful concepts and constructions on this planet will tumble but the knowledge of our self will never let us down.

The terrorists have done their work well, meaning that without their conscious knowledge they have inflamed us with their acts, waking us and forcing us to act. If we act well we will be setting up a movement which will eventually engulf the world, not in a destructive fire but in the more powerful fire of love. Eventually the terrorist strike will be seen for the wonderful opportunity given to us.

Although all actions are initiated by our emotions and desires, the intellect and will are roped in to supply the means and the power to bring about the actions dictated by our emotions. A cup of tea will aid us in tempering our emotions so that we do not unknowingly initiate actions which may likely have self-destructive consequences.

Nearly 200 persons were killed during the recent terrorist strike. It is a sobering thought to recollect that a greater number of children have taken their own lives out of fear and frustration of not performing as well in their school exams as expected…… as expected by us parents, by us educators who hide behind academia minutia, and abetted openly by the rest of us taking cover in the corporations who demand the best and brightest of these children for cannon fodder for our own peace machines and machinations.

In other words, if you are not good enough you deserve to die and if you are good enough then you deserve to be given the honor of serving as cannon fodder.

There is no sadder experience than to watch your own child take his life, infinitely sadder than being killed in a surprise war attack. If the above is not terror unleashed by us on our children then perhaps you have another word for it. We have identified the two most important arena where change will be most beneficial to all of us : Schools and at our places of work:


We must set aside some time, at least one period each week, to develop confidence of the children in their own power of thinking of the world at large and their place in it, of arriving at conclusions and eventually being given a platform and opportunity to act upon valid conclusions.

A little attention by us adults on the state of our children will convince us that the above time will have beneficial results. Doctors are complaining that they are seeing clinical signs of stress in children as young as first grade toddlers. At the same time these children display a higher level of knowledge than what we or our parents' generation ever did during first grade. These children are perfectly able to do original thinking and in the process be able to ward off stress that we adults, knowingly or unknowingly, bestow on them.

This so called Socratic method has been used with success in some Scottish schools. Children benefited by this well spent time in school will never fall into the trap of living and dying for other persons' expectations, not even for their beloved parents. So while we adults mess up the world let the children know about the state of the world outside their school, a world they will soon be inheriting, and give themselves and us a chance to do less damage and in the process live a more enjoyable life.

Life is a chance to dance and the basic enjoyment is obtained through the exercise of problem solving. Problems themselves are not a problem. A life without any problems becomes tragic and can lead to the only possible termination of life : death due to boredom.


Almost all adults work and many children too are ensnared in working at adult jobs. Thus a major portion of the human population spend a major part of their adult waking hours at their place of work. Considering this fact, the atmosphere generated from the attitudes of the top boss downwards play a considerable influence to generate trust or mistrust which in turn results in hostility or warm co-operation, not only in the offices but in the world at large. Wars, including terrorist strikes, and environmental problems are not something thrust upon us from the outside but are a direct result of our seemingly innocent life led day-to-day within our homes, schools and places of work.

The atmosphere at home requires no comment since all of us would agree that love is the unspoken binding factor to have a happy home life. It is only at schools and places of work we slip on our impersonal masks and become stiff as robots, slipping into our well worn roles as teacher and boss and students and employees with their own stilted protocol wherein the prime life enhancing ingredient of love is subdued or altogether neglected as having no practical value. The sorry part is that the place of love, the home, is also creaking under the stress of our unloving ways.

The old saying among our seafaring fraternity, that "a happy ship is a safe ship" has been personally tested for many decades and has been found true without any exception.

With the above introduction of focus for our CHAI international organization, we can slowly formulate the subsidiary aims, select our office bearers from our volunteers in every city, town and eventually every village, form our local, national and international agendas to make all of us feel included. For this organization will be an umbrella wherein each of us will be respected, wherein each of us can have a cup of tea without scalding others. A cup of tea has the amazing property of both warming us and cooling us down before we plunge into joyous arduous labor.

This organization can be many kinds of platforms for many kinds of projects. But it should never become a platform for any narrow-minded vested interests. We should never allow our CHAI to be hijacked for any dubious aims no matter how rosy they may appear outwardly.

The recent terrorist strike was different to earlier terrorist strikes and not just in the modus operandi. For this time many of the victims belonged to what may be termed as the jet set, not to be seen as a derogatory term. The victims at the railway station remain for the most part as faceless as the human beings killed in terrorist activities in Kashmir and other parts of the world.

Not so the persons killed at the two five star hotels and the Nariman House building. Many of them were highly acclaimed professionals, well respected in their fields and in associated social circles. They were articulate and used to independent thinking. Consequently the friends and families of the persons who were brutally killed are also of the same caliber. This was the one mistake the terrorists' puppet master has made which will see not only the gradual elimination of the terrorist but also an immense liberation in the world at large.

Have a cup of tea.

Jimmy Shroff
(A chai-walla)

Update: Jimmy wasnt really kidding. Join him at his new International Tea House or Chai International by visiting the website, here:

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